Whether you are new to staying in hostels or a seasoned nomad, these tips for hostel etiquette apply to you! Have a browse through “the 10 commandments” to learn or brush up on the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of staying in a hostel.
1. Thou shalt not be LOUD!
If you are taking off early in the morning, consider packing your bag at night before you go to sleep – this way you won’t disturb others in the room as you leave bright and early. If possible, use a flashlight until it is a reasonable time to turn the light on (e.g. turning the lights on at 7:00AM is not going to make you popular among the other travellers).
If you come in late at night, be mindful of others who are already sleeping. Keep a torch or head lamp on your bed for easy access, or use the flashlight app on your phone instead of turning all the lights on.
2. Thou shalt not be a slob
Staying in a hostel dorm room means that a number of bodies must share a relatively small space. As a rule of thumb, keep your belongings on your bed, beside your bed, or in the locker assigned to you. Be mindful that the dorm is everyone’s home while on the road, not just yours – it shouldn’t look like your bedroom with clothes on the floor or empty beer cans laying around.
Similarly, your roommates will love you if you help in keeping the shared bathroom space tidy and hygienic.
3. Thou shalt not be “that annoying drunk person”
There is nothing wrong with having some drinks and feeling loose while traveling. There is something seriously wrong with getting out of control and requiring your roommates to A) take care of you, B) clean up after you, or C) deal with inappropriate and obnoxious behaviour (e.g. yelling, swearing, crying, threatening, or smashing beer bottles in the room at 5:00AM – yes, I was once the unfortunate witness to all of the above). If your hangover and impending shame the next day doesn’t knock enough sense into you, your roommates’ silent treatment surely will.
4. Thou shalt not bring someone home
There is an old saying that when things get a little too public, you should “get a room”… Well this doesn’t apply if you are sharing a dorm room. No matter how drunk you are (see #3), don’t bring someone back to the dorm – particularly if you are sharing a bunk bed. Speaking from personal experience, it’s really not cool to be woken up in this way by the person(s) below you.
5. Thou shalt not steal
It is sad that I even have to say this, but if it’s not yours, don’t touch it. Practice good karma people! If you don’t want someone to steal your belongings, respect other people’s things. To be safe, you might want to take extra precautions and label your personal items or keep them locked away.
6. Thou shalt not borrow (without asking!)
If you are one of those individuals who borrow other people’s things in a shared bathroom (i.e. toothpaste, shampoo, body wash) or kitchen (i.e. milk, condiments, beer) – know that it’s not really borrowing unless you ask first (See #5). Most travellers who stay in a hostel are there because they are on a budget, not because they really want to get cozy in a dorm with 7+ other people. If you’re using someone else’s stuff because you’re on a tight budget, remember that your fellow travellers are too! Most of them are pretty cool, so ask first and you shall receive!
7. Thou shalt not be high maintenance
It’s totally okay to use the shared bathroom to get glammed up for a night on the town or to get cleaned up after a long day of travel; it’s totally not okay to barricade yourself in there for over an hour as you style your hair. As they say, “when you’ve gotta go, you’ve really gotta go”, so be considerate and don’t be a bathroom hog!
8. Thou shalt not be obnoxious
If you need to make a phone call back home to mum and dad, or skype with your long distance partner, it would be thoughtful of you to take it outside the dorm room. There are often lounges or living rooms that exist in hostels exactly for this purpose! No one really wants (or needs) to hear the details of your lovers’ quarrel while they are trying to get some shuteye!
9. Thou shalt not complain
It can be difficult sharing space with one roommate, let alone multiple other people. It’s often a roll of the dice as to whether you wind up sharing a dorm with someone who snores or suffers from gastrointestinal issues. We’ve all been there and when it happens to you, it’s really shitty (no pun intended). When it comes down to it, it’s all part of the experience. It’s the nature of the beast, so instead of complaining about your roommates, come prepared with earplugs, some digestive aids and a little patience!
10. Thou shalt be kind
Most of all, hostels are a great way to meet new people! Particularly as a solo traveler, staying at a hostel may be one of the key ways for you to link up with other backpackers to travel onwards, or just to socialize with!
In fact, I’ve met some lifelong friends at hostels. I will forever be grateful to those people who took me under their wings during my solo backpacking days, so be inclusive (especially if you are traveling in a group and see someone alone – they are silently asking to hang with you!). You never know the connections you can create through travel – it’s truly amazing!